Matthew Spencer Petersen, nominated by President Trump to serve as a federal judge, had a hard time with basic legal questions in a Wednesday Senate hearing. Petersen, who is now a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, quickly acknowledged that he’s never tried a case and had only worked on a handful of depositions during his legal career.
But when Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, asked him questions about the rules governing evidence in federal trials, Petersen said he likely hadn’t read them “comprehensively” since law school. He also couldn’t explain a legal precedent governing the use of expert witnesses, a common legal term, or two standards for situations when federal courts defer to state courts.
At a time when knowledge questions are a standard part of job interviews, it’s a little surprising that Petersen didn’t do more prep for a confirmation hearing. If nothing else, rereading the Federal Rules of Evidence, however dry, might be a good idea for other nominees.